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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Easy DIY Apothecary Jars

So, it's been awhile, and a few things have happened in the year plus since I last posted.  Most relevant to this post is that we moved last month, and got a fireplace, which we've been starting to decorate with our Halloween decor.  After pulling out everything that we brought with us, it still looked kind of...meh.  So I decided that I wanted some apothecary jars full of candy to put up.  I googled, and all of the apothecary jars were either affordable, but tiny, or large and far too expensive for my personal tastes and budget.  I decided to see if I could make some myself, and, spoiler alert, it worked out perfectly, and cost less than $20 for the decor (and another $25 for candy...but that was definitely my own fault).  So, in case you want to make some jars too, but didn't have the idea before I did--here it is.  I feel silly even calling this a "DIY" or a "Tutorial," because it's so easy.

 Supplies :

1. Some candlesticks.  I found this cool metal pair.
2. A Vase with a shape you like.
3. A jar that's probably from someone's candle (this one had a lid!)
4. Another jar of some sort, with a lid you can steal to fit the vase.
5. A cool jar that just needs to be sterilized.
6. A really strong-holding epoxy-type glue.

I got all these supplies from my local thrift store except the glue, which I got from Walmart FOREVER ago. I believe the glue was about $5 for the tube, and it also comes in black.  For this project, you want the clear, so make sure you grab the right one.

For me, I saw the candlesticks first, and tried to make sure that the vases and other containers fit into them nicely so that gluing would be as easy as possible. Peel off all stickers and labels. Then, pull off any plastic pieces on the lids. For me, the former candle had a plastic stopper around the lid that smelled really strongly of cinnamon (which I discarded), and the square-ish jar had a plastic stopper around the glass lid which I removed and washed.  Both came off easily with a little pulling. Then run everything through the dishwasher with a "sanitize" cycle included, since you'll be putting food into them, or scrub them really, REALLY well if you don't have a dishwasher. Once everything is clean, be sure to dry them thoroughly. Lastly, glue the jars/vases to the candlesticks, following your glue's instructions, fill with candy, and display!

You'll have to decide if also gluing the lids shut is a better choice for you...

Happy Halloween!
I'm most excited about the versatility of the jars.  They will definitely work beyond Halloween!  Red and green candies for Christmas? Red, White and Blue for 4th of July? Honestly, maybe I'm most excited about having an excuse to have candy at my fingertips all year round.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Alana Kay Murray

The first portion of this birth story is mostly back story leading up to the actual birth...skip the first three paragraphs if you don't care.  And, as always in birth stories, there are a lot of details, and possibly TMI.  

This pregnancy had been rather uneventful.  We had decided to keep the gender a surprise, but other than that, everything had been basically textbook.  We were hopeful that this baby might make their appearance early, like their brother had, but that didn't happen...then we were hopeful that the baby might come on her due date (father's day)...which also didn't happen.  Starting the Saturday before Father's day, I had regular bouts of false labor, which are the worst!  Not because they hurt particularly badly, or anything else, but because Nate and I would get hopeful that we were having a baby...and then everything would stop, and we'd feel disappointed, despite our best efforts not to get excited about it.  Two rounds of false labor had me convinced enough that I even said, "I think this might be it."  Clearly, this cursed us, and the contractions would stop just a little bit later.

So, Thursday, the 19th rolls around, and I had my last prenatal appointment.  I was dilated to 2 cm at this point.  Because I was past my due date, they decided I needed a non-stress test.  I had both Katie and Grayson at the appointment with me, and we'd already had to wait longer than normal, so everyone's patience was running a bit thin.  Throw in about 45 minutes on the monitors (with a couple of people getting concerned because the baby wasn't moving around enough and throwing words like, "send you to the hospital" and "uh oh" around), and the non-stress test was, in fact, anything but.  Eventually, after buzzing my stomach with some kind device, the baby started moving around enough to get a good pattern of heart rate increase and decrease, and we were sent on our way.

That night, I started having some contractions.  I finally packed a hospital bag for me, and timed them for about an hour and a half, and they were coming consistently, This was one of the times I said, "I think this might be it, we should go to sleep just in case."  So we go to bed, and I keep having some contractions, but they're very far apart at this point.  Friday morning, I asked Nate if he'd be ok staying home from work, just in case, and because I was feeling really sick--super nauseous, achy, etc--so he did.  We just mostly sat around on Friday waiting for contractions to get closer together, but, by the afternoon, they weren't even coming in a consistent pattern anymore, and I was starting to be convinced that I would be pregnant forever (clearly, not possible...but that's just what it feels like at the end.).

Saturday morning rolls around, and I'm having contractions that are consistently 10 minutes apart, and actually a bit painful.  Looking back on the rest of the time leading up to that morning, I'm convinced that it's probably not the real thing...again.  We try to go about our Saturday like it's any normal day.  We took the kids to Mariano's for groceries and gelatto, and hit a couple of other stores too, and then head home.  I keep hoping that my contractions will get closer together, but they don't.  They do, however, start getting more painful, and, after breaking down and crying to Nate after the kids were in bed about how sorry I am that we still haven't had the baby, and he's probably going to have to go to work on Monday, I decided to call the doctor, and see if he had any suggestions.  The doctor on call wasn't my doctor, but he looked at my chart and suggested that I come on in and they could see what was going on, and that he was pretty sure that once I hit active labor, I'd be having a baby pretty quickly.  I decided to go in with the expectation that we'd be getting sent home, and called my friend to come and sit in our house so the kids could sleep.  She came over around 9:30 (thank you Dayanara!!) and we headed out to the Hospital.

It's probably not actually the case, but it seemed like as soon as the doctor said that we could come in and see what was happening, my contractions started getting closer together.  I had quite a few on the drive to the hospital, and I had to stop in between contractions every few steps once we got to the hospital.  I even got wheeled up to Labor and Delivery in a wheelchair, and asked Nate if he felt like enough of a stereotype yet.  We were checked in at 9:53, and they started monitoring, checked me (I was at 4cm), and so we got to stay.  

In the bed being monitored...and having contractions.

Are you really taking a picture right now?
I had to stay in the bed for kind of a long time while they established a good trace on the baby's heart rate.  This wasn't my favorite thing, but everyone at the hospital was so nice and helpful, that it didn't really matter.  After we'd been there for about 45 minutes or so, I was able to get up and stand next to the bed.  My contractions were coming really intensely at this point, and I tried sitting on the yoga ball (awful this time!  Great with Grayson, but I really, REALLY hated it this time around), and ended up mostly just leaning over the bed with Nate applying counter-pressure to my hips the whole time.  During one contraction, I totally managed to pee all over the floor.  The nurse who came in thought that my water might have broken...but it hadn't, I had just lost control...which would happen 2 more times, unfortunately.  Bless those labor and delivery nurses who see you at your worst and don't make you feel like a gross freak.

Also, is it over yet?
Quite soon, I felt incredibly nauseous, and asked for something to throw up in.  I threw up, and my water broke, and I instantly felt like I really needed to push.  This time around, the nurses flew into action immediately.  The doctor was called into the room (he had apparently come to the hospital shortly after I had called him, and decided to sleep on the couch.  He was THAT certain that I would be having the baby quickly), and they started a file for the new baby.  This happened around 11:50 or so, I climbed up on the bed, on my hands and knees, pushed a few times, and at 11:57, our baby was born!  I was able to do it without an epidural again, which is nice.  Having the most painful part of the labor go SO fast both times is definitely the factor that allows that to happen.

Nate immediately said, "It's a girl!"  And the delivering doctor said, "It's a boy!"  I don't know if he was kidding, or what, but it was definitely a girl.  Our little Alana Kay.

She was so alert right off the bat, and spent a good portion of the hour or so we had together before they took her to be weighed or anything just looking around.  Nate had made sure to request that I got to hold her right away (they'd taken Grayson away for a bit before they'd let me hold him) and they did. 

While the doctor was helping to deliver the placenta etc.  He looked at me, and at the time on the clock, and he said, "So...did you really NOT think you were in labor?"  From the time I'd checked into the hospital until she'd been born, it had only been 2 hours and 7 minutes.  She squeaked in on the first day of summer by 3 minutes.

She was a big baby too!  9 pounds, 3 oz.  Bigger than Katie (who was also born 6 days late), by almost exactly a pound.  The nurse afterwards told me it was probably a good thing that I had delivered on my hands and knees, because that's one of the best positions for the most open pelvis.  Thankfully, I also had no tearing or anything else, so my recovery has been great.

We didn't tell Katie the baby's gender ahead of time, because I wanted to see her reaction when she found out she was getting a sister.  She'd been telling us for a couple of months that the baby was definitely a girl, and that she was getting a sister, and we'd been trying to prep her for the possibility that it might not actually be a girl.  No need though--she was right.

Grayson was mostly uninterested in Alana, but he did love all the various buttons, and beverages with straws he had access to.  Once again, having a baby suddenly aged the children we had by a factor of 100.  Grayson seems so much bigger now!

They're always so tiny in the car seat!
We got to go home on Monday morning, which was nice.  And, thanks to our friends Dayanara and Tim and Kristen Hughes, Nate and I got to spend a good amount of time together in the hospital, which made it much less lonely than it could have been.  The hospital even did a special celebration dinner for us on Sunday night. Seriously, the hospital was fantastic, the nurses were wonderful, and the whole experience was just really nice.  I felt like they tried really hard to make sure that our wants were completely respected.

On the way home from the hospital, BOTH Alana and Grayson fell asleep in the car.  Here's hoping we can manage to schedule a few more naps this way.

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Happenings

I keep feeling like this winter will never end (just like everyone else in this area of the country), and so March passed by kind of quickly in a relative blur of sameness.  We did manage to get outside a few times.

Chicago River dyed Green
We finally went to the Vault (we've now had Do-Rite, Firecakes, Glazed and Infused, and the Vault).  The doughnuts were really, REALLY good, but I don't know that I think they're the best in Chicago.  I guess, for me, there's sort of a bliss point for your basic buttermilk cake doughnut.  This place definitely hits that, but so do the other places.

Basically, if pizza isn't your thing, and a Chicago Dog doesn't carry any kind of interest for you, just go on a doughnut tour while you're here.  We've got a LOT of amazing options.
The yeast doughnuts were SO huge!
After we went to the Vault, we headed off to a Chicago Park to check out a Maple Syrup festival.  I had no idea that they could tap trees and make Maple Syrup right in the middle of Chicago, but they can.  It was pretty cold outside, but it was still nice to get outside and into a little bit of nature.

Upper Left:  syrup tasting and boiling sap over an open flame, Upper Right:  Me and Grayson, checking out the tree taps, Lower Left:  Katie inspecting the sap (apparently, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!), Lower Right:  Grayson walking in the woods, and Katie and Grayson chillin' (literally) in the stroller.
We got a few days where it was warm enough to head to the local park, go on a couple of bike rides, and be outside for longer than 30 seconds without hating the experience.  Today was kind of cold again though, so we played inside.

I took food coloring and white vinegar and put a few different colors in a muffin tin.  Then, in the pie plate, I spread out a layer of baking soda.  Katie and Grayson both got a medicine dispenser, and then squirted the colored vinegar on the baking soda.  Grayson couldn't fill the dispenser on his own, but I bet he could have done it if it were one of the dropper-types.  Katie had no problems at all, and really loved her "Foaming Rainbow Lakes."

Grayson also tasted all the parts involved...but that problem quickly solved itself.  Neither Vinegar nor Baking soda is terribly tasty alone.

Katie loved the foaming, and then playing in the baking soda afterwards.  She wanted to save her "colored sand."  We didn't.
 Overall, this was a great activity.  Both kids could do it, and they enjoyed it, and it was really easy to clean up.  These days, that's the biggest win of an activity for me.

 Lastly, someone started walking around our house almost full-time!  Watching his little teetering wobbles down the hall and his nervous giggles as he tries to go faster is SO much fun.  It definitely helps to brighten up some of these still-dreary days.

Here's hoping for April Showers...and maybe a few leaves or flowers?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Easy DIY Valentine's Banner

We're having a party on Friday, and Katie loves to decide what we do as far as decorations.  Honestly, I don't mind at all, because they usually end up staying up in our house for awhile after, and it's nice to add a bit of extra cheer to these winter months.

This DIY is really easy, but does involve a little bit of elbow grease.  You'll need the following things:
1.  Old book (I used an out-of-date encyclopedia that I rescued from a box destined for the trash by a local store).  It should be a little bit thicker to make cutting into it easier, and to ensure that you don't cut into the surface below it.  Magazine's might be a nice colorful alternative, but be sure to protect whatever surface you're cutting on.
2.  Heart Shape (or any other shape you feel like cutting).
3.  Exacto knife, box cutter, really sharp pocket knife etc.
4.  Sewing machine, and thread

Open your book up, and trace your shape on the front page.  Then, with your knife of choice, start carving the shape out of the book.  Just keep retracing the shape over and over and over until you have a stack of shapes that you deem "enough."  I ended up getting about 20 shapes for each carving (pushing pretty hard against the pages), and then opening the book to wherever my last shape had ended and repeating the process. 
Carved hearts, opened book, and kept carving.

Once you have a stack of shapes, set your sewing machine to a straight stitch, and make the stitch length as long as possible (whatever your basting stitch length is).  Then, just push your pedal down, and insert the shapes one at a time as you sew a straight line. 

You can do this with regular paper, and do not need to carve up a book, but the encyclopedia gives it some text on each shape, and even the occasional picture.  I was sad when I opened it to find that I'd missed this guy's face:

Don't his eyes just beg you to be his Valentine?
 And that's all!  You can feel pleased that it's so cheap to make, and, if you use the book method, you can feel like it's a craft that's just a teeny-tiny bit hard-core...you know, because you're carving it up with a knife.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Whirlwind Weekend in Chicago

I love Chicago.  Really, I do.  It's got such great everything (except mountains...but it IS the midwest).  Lately, the weather has been getting me down a little bit, what with words like "bitter," "frigid," "polar," etc. being thrown around with every.single. weather forecast.  I wrote this post up for Janssen awhile back, and looking at the pictures of fun spring and summer activities is reminding me that there's hope around the corner, and that, someday, the cold will go away.  So, don't come and visit us in the next couple of months (unless you REALLY want to see the inside of my apartment, or the nearest Target because that's probably as far as we'd venture), but, come spring, you should definitely visit!

 Hi!  I’m Nicole.   My husband, Nate, and I moved to Chicago in December of 2011 for his job.  He works right in the Loop, and we live in Rogers Park—the furthest neighborhood north in Chicago.  The kiddos and I visit Nate downtown a couple of times a month, so we’ve seen a fairly decent amount of the north side of the city.  With Katie (3), and Grayson (1) in tow, the things that we usually do are pretty child-friendly, but, honestly, if you’re visiting me, you likely are too.

The lines can be SO long, but the food is really good!
I'd take you out for Chicago Style Hot Dog at Hot Doug’s.  It’s a great little cash-only hot dog place that serves not only Chicago-Style hot dogs (which are vastly superior), but they also have a variety of other meat options:  Alligator, Venison, Foie Gras, etc.  You can order whatever you want, but people don’t line up for hours in the summer just for the normal hot dog.  I'd strongly recommend going with two people, and getting one regular (or the Elvis, deep fried), and one specialty.  Whatever you do, people will definitely recommend that you get the Duck Fat Fries.  Personally, I don’t notice a difference between whatever their fries are normally fried in and the duck fat, but you probably should try it anyway, because it’s different.  They’re served on Fridays and Saturdays, and perhaps you have a less plebeian palate than I.   We could also go to Superdawgs, if the line is too long at Hot Doug's.  Their fries aren't anything special, but the Chicago-Style Hot Dogs they make are really, really good.

They've been around since 1948, so they're doing something right.

Those are giant glass walls that project images--usually faces.  About every 10 minutes or so, the face "spits" out a large stream of water all over the children who happen to be underneath it.

It's famous for a reason! You shouldn't miss Millennium Park.  Right off the El, and several bus lines, and just south of all the shopping you could want on Michigan Avenue, this fantastic park is full of sculptures and an outdoor concert area where they regularly hold free concerts in the summer.  They also have a HUGE pair of fountains that kids (and adults) can run and play in between.  There’s ice skating in the winter (bring your own skates and it’s free!), and general awesomeness year round.  You can’t come to Chicago and not take at least one picture with The Bean (actually named “The Cloud Gate” but it mostly looks like a perfectly mirrored kidney bean).

Taken from Their Website.

Calories don't count on vacation, so we'll stop in and grab a treat at Lickity Split—The most adorable little ice cream shop in the Edgewater neighborhood.  Their custard is so delicious, and they’ve got a bunch of old-timey candies in jars and such.  Really, unless you hate sugar and cute, there’s nothing not to love. 

Closer to Evanston--but the lake is MASSIVE.
The weather is perfect and getting outdoors is a must. We'll take advantage of the gorgeous day at the beach.  I’m sure other major cities love their waterfronts, but I never fail to be astonished by Lake Michigan.  I’m certain that, had I been an early American explorer, I would have hit Lake Michigan and immediately declared it to be the Pacific Ocean (yes, I know it’s freshwater, but it has a tide!).  Then there would have been a lot of embarrassment back home, and the textbooks would have declared it “Murray’s Malady” or something like that.  Anyway—we’ll go to the beach, because it’s sandy, and swimmable, and awesome.  We’re all-season beach-goers, so this applies year-round…though I won’t be swimming in the winter.

So glad my two kiddos love the sand and water.

Katie's first Giordano's.  The pizza is literally an inch and a half thick.

You're so fortunate to have a Chicago insider showing you around. The locals would stone me if I didn't feed you some Chicago-Style deep dish.  Being no respecter of Pizzas, my husband and I have eaten at many different pizza establishments.  My dad’s favorite is Giordano’s, but I think I prefer some of the other versions.  Exchequer downtown makes a pretty awesome pizza, Pizano’s is great, and if we’re already at Millennium Park, we’ll be placed in a prime location to eat just about anywhere.  You’ll get lots of different opinions on where to eat it, so go with whomever you trust, really, just make sure you eat it, and make sure you’re basically starving before you get there. 

You didn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway that a trip to Chicago wouldn't be complete without a trip to Navy Pier.  It’s SUPER touristy, but, meh.  Sometimes you just need to be a tourist while you are one.  It’s a great place to people watch, and, if you’re looking for something of substance, they have a stained glass museum which is free, and beautiful.  Also, you can ride on a Ferris Wheel and look out at the city, or the lake, and, during the summer, they do fireworks a few times a week. 

There is so much more to Chicago than you can do in a weekend (I didn’t even mention the Lincoln Park Zoo, or any of the museums!), so I’d highly recommend coming for longer if you can.  It’s really a fantastic city.